Friday Sampler: A Crushing Death by F. M. Meredith

A Crushing Death Final

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s Sampler features an excerpt from A Crushing Death, an murder mystery from F. M. Meredith.

About F. M. Meredith

Author  F. M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of 35 plus published books. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences.

Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/

The Story

In the twelfth book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series A Crushing Death, a pile of rocks is found on a dead body beneath the condemned pier, a teacher is accused of molesting a student, the new police chief is threatened by someone she once arrested for attacking women, and Detective Milligan’s teenage daughter has a big problem.

The Sampler

F. M. Meredith
F. M. Meredith

It never failed. On a holiday or a scheduled day off, or right in the middle of a great night’s sleep, the phone rang, like it just did.

Without opening his eyes, Detective Doug Milligan reached for his phone and answered. “Milligan.”

“You’re needed at the old pier.” The voice belonged to Sergeant Abel Navarro. “Homicide. Zachary will meet you there.” Then he was gone.

His wife, Stacey, rolled over to face him. “What is it?”

“Homicide. Got to go.” He leaned over and kissed her.

Her face registered curiosity.

“All I know is that a body was found at the old pier.” He grabbed his clothes from a chair and went into the bathroom.

Because Rocky Bluff P.D. was small, underfunded and understaffed, Doug and his partner Felix Zachary investigated all major crimes including homicides and other crime scenes.

When Doug drove onto the broken up asphalt of the parking lot, he parked next to Felix Zachary’s new Escalade. A RBPD blue-and-white patrol car was beside it. Nearer the chained- off steps leading to the dilapidated wooden pier, a young couple huddled against a white Chevy truck.

A flashlight beam bobbed around underneath the pier.

When Doug got out of his own van, he immediately felt the damp air, smelled the ocean, and heard the waves pounding the beach. He opened his trunk and brought out his portable evidence kit.

Weeds sprouted through the cracked asphalt of the lot, some standing many inches high. Doug hurried across, but when he reached the sand, walking became more of an effort.

Though condemned for years, the city fathers had yet to make plans to tear down the battered pier. The last major damage done to it was in 1995 when a winter storm with 18 foot high waves ripped off the end of the pier, including some of the wooden footings. The recent earthquake shook more boards and railings loose.

When Doug reached Felix and the uniformed officer on the scene, he asked, “What have we got?”

Officer Vaughn Aragon, much shorter than Doug or Felix, played the beam of his flashlight over what looked like a pile of large stones stacked on the chest of a body. “Those kids back there found this.”

Doug pulled on latex gloves and squatted close to the head. “Either of you recognize the victim?” From what he could see, the corpse was male, light brown hair, close to 6 feet tall, and possibly 180 pounds or more. There were no visible signs of decomposition. He touched the body. Cold.

“I think I know who it is,” Aragon said. “His wife reported him missing yesterday. I saw his photo at the station. If I’m right, it’s Martin Tivazian.”

Doug recognized the name. “That’s the high school teacher accused of improper actions with one of his students.”

“Yes. I’m sure it’s him.”

“Have you called the medical examiner’s office yet?”

“Did it soon as I arrived.” Detective Felix Zachary towered over the much shorter Aragon. Except for the new chief, he was the only African-American officer on the RBPD, towered over the much shorter Aragon. “It’ll be awhile before someone gets here from Ventura.”

Being too small and too poor to have a coroner of its own, Rocky Bluff P.D. used the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office for any deaths suspected of foul play. Obviously this one met the criteria.

Doug turned to Officer Aragon “While we’re waiting for them, interview the young couple who found the body. Ask them the usual questions and get their contact information.”

Aragon trotted off.

“Felix, did you get a chance to look around at all?” Doug played his flashlight beam in a widening arc around the body. He spotted a few partial footprints in the dry sand, but nothing that looked like it would hold up in a cast. It wouldn’t be easy to discern between those of the kids who found the body, Aragon’s and their own, let alone whoever deposited the body under the pier.

“I didn’t get here much before you. What I did see was what looks like drag marks over there.” Felix pointed his flashlight toward an approximately two-foot wide depression that came from the direction of the parking lot and ended at the corpse.

“Maybe the victim was brought here unconscious and then the stones piled on.” Doug played the beam of the flashlight over what he could see of the victim. He had a long face and thick dark hair. He wore khaki slacks and what looked like expensive loafers.

“Or he was killed somewhere else and the stones are some kind of a statement.”

Doug grimaced.

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